An austere ambiance radiates from “White Jacket”, the new single and debut video for Siamese. Opening with crackling synth lines and beats, the air is pregnant with a paranoid dread. With a cinematic build, a bassline seemingly emanates from an abyss and sprawls across the soundscape. When breakneck percussion arrives at the 50-second mark, it’s like you’re launched on a bullet train through a subterranean tunnel, singer Johanna Champagne’s belting of “Burn down my temple” acting as a light at the end. The theme of sparking a conflagration to watch constructs burn is present throughout the EP from which the song hails.
The Detroit quartet’s motif is steeped in darkwave electronica and ‘80s post-punk. Dark as their material is, it’s filtered earworming hooks and refrains. As the lead track from their eponymous EP, “White Jacket” is a galvanizing affirmation, defiant and resolute as though acquired as the spoil from a hard-fought battle. The accompanying video features kaleidoscoping images of the band performing in an otherworldly club or gothic discotheque. It’s either the last night to revel before the apocalypse, or the first night post-Armageddon for the survivors to dance as testament to their endurance.
Champagne took some time to answer a few questions on Siamese’s past, present, and future.
First off, what was the inspiration behind “White Jacket”?
Ever since I was a child, whenever upset I would turn to music. This EP was inspired by/the result of some significant changes in my life. I was in a very dark period when I wrote all of it. The lyrics are extremely personal and reflective of my state of mind during this time. Lyrically, “White Jacket” was inspired by racing thoughts, and the desire to have some peace and quiet. I was feeling like there was a constant war going on in my brain, and I just wanted it to stop. I wanted to be able to breathe and take a break from myself for a bit.
Also, I hate writing song titles. Something about naming a song is difficult for me. So we chose vintage romance novel titles to name all of our songs on this EP. This one, “White Jacket”, was chosen because it reminded me of a straightjacket, which made sense with the lyrics.
Tell me about the concept of the video, and where and when it was filmed.
The video was filmed and directed by Dan Dimaggio. It was filmed at his house in Detroit, as well as mine in Ferndale. We had seen his previous work, and were big fans. Dan came to the band with a ton of awesome ideas that we could have never come up with on our own. We basically just filmed a bunch of the ideas and tried to see what worked and what didn’t. To the dismay of my bandmates, I have been using the more embarrassing unused footage of them to make trailers for our EP release show.
What’s Siamese’s paradigm for songwriting? Are the songs written as a group collectively contributing, or with a primary songwriter taking the lead?
Originally, Siamese started a few years ago as an e-mail based project between Steve Thoel (guitarist/programmer) and me. We both love dark and dancey music. He would send me keyboard parts he wrote, and I would send him back vocal melodies or other keyboard parts I wrote. Angie Kaiser (and Joe joined us and we started finalizing our original ideas. Angie Kaiser (drums) and Joe Sausser (bass) have added a lot to these songs; they are much better now than they ever were before.
How, if at all, does your profession as a therapist helping others work through their personal issues affect your art?
I am surrounded daily by clients who bare their souls to me, which is a very courageous thing to do. I admire them and their willingness to open up and do that. You are incredibly vulnerable in therapy. I suppose I use music as a way to do that, myself. To be a successful therapist you have to be both empathetic, creative and self-aware. I have used my self-awareness to write pretty damn personal lyrics. Then I just release it to whoever wants to hear it which is, I guess, my therapy. Creating and performing is very cathartic and healing.
The self-titled EP contains six songs. Was there a pervasive theme or mission statement you were going with for this record?
Not so much of a theme. We were just writing music that we wanted to listen to. The lyrics came from whatever was going on in my head at the moment.
The EP features a cover of the Church’s “Under the Milky Way”. How was that tune selected and how’d you go about reinterpreting it rather than making it a by-numbers redo?
That one is all on Steve. He and I were trying to think of a good song to cover. We both love 80’s music and had thrown out some ideas. I think I was the one who mentioned that song. He created that one almost entirely himself and sent it to us. I was floored. I love what he did there.
You have an EP release show at the Loving Touch in Ferndale, Michigan, on Saturday, July 30. What else is on Siamese’s horizon?
We are playing Femfest on Aug. 13 at the Trumbleplex in Detroit as well as Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival in Bay City on Sept. 23. We will be playing more shows around here now that the EP is finished as well as hoping to put together a small tour in the near future.
Siamese is set for release on Monday, July 25.